Despite Japan’s appeal to modesty and attempt to keep the body covered at all times, there are fragments of the culture that break the code. Japanese people love bathing in communal baths called Onsens. Think of a really nice hot spring inside of a luxury spa. That is an onsen.
As a foreigner, I was very nervous to bathe nude with countless Japanese women who, living in a rural town in the mountains outside of Hyuga, have the rare opportunity to see a gaijin with clothes on…but the horror stories I was told about Japanese fleeing as soon as the naked gaijin got in the water did not come true. Hyuga was experiencing a storm so I decided to take a seat in the hot outdoor pool and let the cold rain fall on my head. Jon and I even treated ourselves to 100 yen (approx. 1 dollar) recliner massages afterwards. I’d say it was a success.
A major reason why the experience was successful was because I had done my research before going and Jon is an expert. Japanese onsens are very strict to their rules and customs and as a foreigner, it would be very embarrassing to make a mistake especially in the nude. If you are unfamiliar with onsen etiquette, here are some tips from Japan Talk. Knowing the reigns before you go is crucial!
We happened upon this onsen after a day trip to Hyuga, a city just south of Nobeoka. We spend the day exploring the cities major sights: Umagase, Hyuga Cape and Cruss Sea (Sea Cross). After exploring the coastline, we were hungry. Unfortunately, we were too late for lunch but too early for dinner, so our options were limited and everything seemed to be closed. Thankfully, after a few failed attempts, a local man helped us find a tiny little okonomiyaki restaurant on a tiny little street downtown Hyuga. And thank you Jesus. It was Oishii!!!
After this adventure, we decided that from now on, when we are in a new town, we will always search for the smallest, narrowest streets for the best food and nicest people to tell us where the best onsens are.
At church on Sunday, Jon and I were asked to share our testimonies! Who would have thought we would be sharing our stories of faith with a tiny congregation in tiny Nobeoka, Japan? And afterwards, we were treated to a true Japanese-style BBQ of Miyazaki beef, veggies, onigiri (rice balls) and homemade Japanese cake. And since Pastor Tasaki and I share a love for peanut butter, I treated them to homemade peanut butter cookies. They were a hit!